Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Extra Expenses for Early Music Instruments?

I have been having a difficult time coming up with topics to write about in my blog, so this morning I sent a request to my Facebook friends to give suggestions. One topic was "extra expenditures required by players of period instruments versus modern instruments - or - how much money I spend maintaining my instrument."
In general, the cost of purchasing a professional quality viola da gamba is less than a violin or cello. I can buy a fine bass viol for $7-10,000, whereas the pricetag would be double that for a violin or cello of comparable quality. Thank goodness, because as a gamba player I have multiple instruments: two trebles (Renaissance consort instrument and French baroque solo instrument), a pardessus, a lirone, and two basses (consort bass and French baroque seven string). The same thing applies to bows. Ours may cost a bit less, but we need more of them...
I use a nice rosin that can be used for all my viols (and for violins), so the cost is the same. As long as it doesn't break, it lasts forever.
Strings can break frequently, especially in the summer. That is a huge expense, especially for so many instruments. Strings are one of my biggest expenses... Ugh.
I had a problem this year that can affect anyone - bow mites. Two of my bows had been taken advantage of by these pesky creatures. From what I understand, bow mites are the larvae from moths (the same ones that can eat holes through sweaters). They sawed off the hair from my bow. No damage was done to the stick, so I put moth balls in my case and closet and had the bows rehaired. That costed the same as a violin or cello rehair job - around $60 each. Ugh. I have now learned that I must store my bows out in the open, where the bugs - at least THOSE bugs - cannot get to them.
Music is more expensive for the viol. There is much less demand for viol music than for piano or violin. And, you cannot go to the Sam Goody music store to purchase gamba music. I order my music or use the wonderful music library at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, which is a wonderful resource.
For the most part, a luthier who does quality work on violins, cellos, or basses can do repairs on viols. Nick Lloyd, a Cincinnati-based double bass maker does excellent work on my viols.
Frets can wear out frequently, but they are easy to fix and can be replaced with old broken strings.
Early music recordings can be more expensive, although now that recordings are more easily available over the internet, this is a levelling factor.
I don't have other regular maintenance costs. I have occasional openings in seams that are easy for a luthier to fix. I don't use different bridges for summer and winter, which would be a great deal of trouble and expense for all my instruments.

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